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The COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK with force this month and has turned the hospitality industry upside down. With citizens encouraged to physically distance themselves from each other, and government requirements for all public spaces to close, restaurants and pubs are facing a challenge that they could never have imagined.

With kitchens full of food, and staff working paycheck to paycheck to pay their bills, many employers in the industry not only have sought help and funding from the government, but also found creative ways to keep some cash flow coming in to help stay afloat and make it through the pandemic when the punters will return to their favourite local haunts.

Here are some of the wonderful (and most successful) ideas we have seen so far. We understand that some of these are not financially viable enough for some businesses and encourage you to speak with your team to come up with the best fitting solutions.

Gift cards or deferred-dining offers

In spite of the current situation, many loyal customers have expressed a strong desire to support their favourite independent businesses. One of the ways they’re doing that is with gift cards and dining offers. Gift cards will not likely not equal a busy dining area will, but in these uncertain times, it can certainly bring in some immediate cash flow, and selling gift cards now will also ensure there will be diners in your seats when your doors open again. Even consider selling them at a discounted rate (i.e. £100 gift card for £75) to make that first freedom meal out of isolation even tastier.

Offering takeaway and delivery 

If you are a food establishment that doesn’t currently offer takeaway/delivery options for your customers, now may be the chance to start. With everyone in the country staying at home and indoors, the demand for food delivery is on the rise. Be sure to give your customers options on how to place orders, preferably through a website or app** that allows card payments as cash transactions are not advised. The easier and more accessible it is for them to place orders, the more likely they will choose you over the place down the road, and your regulars will be over the moon that they can get their fix.

Some owners are even having their team leave the meals somewhere at customers’ request contactlessly. Offering delivery directly from your restaurant to the customer (rather than using UberEats or Deliveroo) can offer less human interaction, especially if adhering to contactless delivery rules. Be sure that whatever insurance you have covers your staff when making deliveries, whether by foot, bike, car or otherwise.

**If you are looking for a program to take orders, check out The Ordering App from Google, as they are waiving their 1.5% per order fee until July 1, 2020 to help support restaurants during the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Pre-made meal deals

One idea we have seen some restaurants executing is using the back stock of food that they have in their kitchens to create wonderful, chef-grade set meals. One French restaurant in London is offering a meal for four in the shape of a whole roasted chicken, two large side dishes, and a bottle of wine. Our suggestion is that orders are placed the day before for next day pick up or delivery, so that you can stagger pickup times for customers at your establishment (customers can adhere to the 2-meter physical distance) and you know how many to prepare ahead of time.

Creating and selling meal kits

Similar to something like HelloFresh, consider using the ingredients you have leftover in your kitchen or cafe to build at home meal kits for your customers to make themselves. It could be anything from salads, to mains to desserts or even coffee kits. This takes the pressure off them of deciding what to make for dinner, and gives them something fun to do with their isolation buddies before they all lose their minds. It also helps you to sell a lot of your inventory before things go bad. Make it even better by including a recipe for them to follow along to. Have some of your staff assist in the marketing, building and delivering (if offered) of the kits locally.

Turn into a mini-grocers

Some restaurants have actually cleared out their dining areas of tables and chairs and brought their fridges and shelves in to sell off any remaining food items from the kitchen at a lower price. I know this won’t turn a large profit for you, but it will at least ensure that you won’t be losing out on money in the form of a disposed product, helps any local distributors you use if you continue to order from them, and makes it easier for your community to get the things they need that may be selling out faster in the local shops. 

Everyday, the situation around COVID-19 seems to be changing so please be mindful of any new rules or regulations that may not allow for some of these options.

There are positives however…

While all of the news can be overwhelming, there are also good stories coming out everyday – including how the restaurant industry has rallied around each other during this time. Numerous charitable efforts have popped up to offer support in different ways. Here are just some of the UK non-profits working tirelessly to get the restaurant industry past this period:

A.Wong’s meals for the vulnerable, London
The chef who runs one of the UK’s stand-out Chinese restaurants is using his establishment to prepare up to 100 meals a day for the vulnerable and those who have lost their jobs. If you can assist with funds, distribution or preparation, Wong is asking to be contacted by email.

Diageo’s Emergency Relief Fund
Global spirits company Diageo, which owns the likes of Ketel One Vodka and Tanqueray gin, has made available a fund of $1.4m to assist bars that face closure in the wake of the pandemic. For more information and to see if it could benefit you, see here.

Drinks Trust
Previously called The Benevolent Fund, this non-profit issues grants to bartenders and workers in the bar sector. See here to apply or to donate.

Guild of Fine Food
This advocate of independent shops and cafes is pioneering a scheme that identifies business support and attempts to match produce and stock that is unable to be sold with those who would like to purchase it. Find out more here.

Hospitality Action
High-profile chefs in the UK have been lobbying government to provide support for workers with great success. Those who have lost their jobs can apply to Hospitality Action for a one-off Covid-19 grant of £250 to help with the immediate fallout of job losses. Donate or apply here.

The Hospitality Workers’ Fund
An emergency fund to assist with zero-hours workers in the UK. Donate, learn more about what they are offering and get more information here.

United We Stand
50 Best’s sister titles BigHospitality.co.uk, Morning Advertiser and Restaurant magazine are launching a campaign called United We Stand, which offers a resource to help workers and businesses affected by measures associated with coronavirus. Stay tuned to the website for developments.

Virtual Tip Jar
These online resources are being transferred from a way to ensure that a server gets your money directly, to donations for those affected by the pandemic. See here.

WSET
The Wine and Spirits Education Trust is the gold standard for wine and spirits training across the world. It is offering 2,000 free places on its Level One Spirits course for bartenders to take from home while they are unable to work. See here for more information.

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